issue four

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(1270 words)
The Eldest Princess
Mariyana Georgieva
The ancient eagle ought to drop breathless, high among the snow-capped peaks, unnoticed; and the weary whale must sink beneath the bottom sand and lie in peace; and the people's Queen must slant her seeing eyes to soar the bliss of blackness; and about them all, songs and legends must relate, and tell the story of a noble life and a peaceful end...

               kept 2 teeth, solid as pillars, in her one-century-old mouth. When her lips parted into a smile, they would stick out not like a rabbit's incisors, but like a hag's precious trophies and last weapons. Deprived of them, she would've seemed too boneless and too powerless; yet it would suit her age. I still wonder if she would've been proud or horrified, had she known at the age of 8 or 9 that these 2 teeth, then sharp and milky white, would endure nearly a hundred years; more than all the thickest trees she would ever see, more than the ramshackle houses of her village-mates, even more than the old village church which collapsed with age before my great grandmother's unbelieving eyes when she was only 89, those 2 yellowish square teeth stayed. Life-eaters hate to withdraw. Why else would they endure a hundred years and no less, when all other body parts succumb to nature's law? Why bother to preserve your weapons and your strength when all you munch is milk and milk-soaked bread, and all your talk is mostly looks and mimics; when you have nothing left to fight for on this earth? Why persevere for years on end, until all, including you, are dead sure that God has forgotten something - to take you out perhaps?

       Armed so well and living on, you must feel terribly helpless and even lonelier having outlived all your friends and peers. You watch the earth lick its parched lips with an invisible and lethal tongue, then swallow their bodies one after the other, incessantly, persistently, and meanwhile, between these same massive lips stretching into a smile everywhere beneath your feet, you continue to put in the seeds of your food, stony-faced. These she'll motherly spit out alive and healthy, but not the people. You would lean over the primeval bone-filled mouth, eyes squeezed and lips pursed, and would once again uproot potatoes, carrots, and turnips to feed your babies and yourself, knowing they who lived on tubers too would never see again the latter's color in the sunlight; they would only smell the humid soil and dream of growing things from underneath and inside, themselves lying still, forever. And in the end, your end that is, the lips which have fed you all life long through this sparkling life-bringing kiss that awakens every tiniest princess and enables her to grow into Her Highness - these glorious lips of your truest mother, they open up, the tongue sweeps you in, and below your peers' tears she is grinning, with her new tooth.

       My great grandmother might have seen things otherwise. They who live 2 steps above the earth have a different relation with her. Daily, and most certainly on hot days, they desert their houses to soak the desert out of the fields. They moisten the huge scorched lips with their sweat and with countless bucketfuls of river water, praying that the earth would not stick out her tongue to wet her lips herself - they're here for her. I think she loves them. Or at least respects them, and is grateful. And I think they pay her back likewise. In the beginning, they find no other choice for life-sustenance; later, in our days, they do, but would not choose them anymore.

       My great grandmother did not like novelties at all. She roamed forever in her old thoughts like an elderly Queen looking for her lost last will. She wouldn't come to visit in the big town, she wouldn't learn how to turn the TV on, nor would she ever leave her house for long. Feeling ill or bored or lonely, she spoke of her invisible roots spraying in a downward fountain under her living-room (Was that to moisten the monstrous lips again?), and she said she was too old and they too strong to be hoed up. To tell the truth, I expected her to bend with age and weakness and comply, come to my grandpa's apartment in town and be comfortably taken care of. But she did not. The stubborn woman made them, my grandparents, go to the village - against their will and against any common sense which would have them remain near the urban doctors. They went to her resentfully but regularly.

       I am convinced she could've lived up to the most beautiful death - when her organs would simply decelerate, healthy as they had always been but all so weary and worn out. They would work quieter and quieter, and then humbly, unnoticeably, her heart would pump out its tiniest amount of life and expire, fall asleep, glad for the work well done…

       She died an ugly death, however. A monstrous desolation for which I was totally unprepared, to which my grandparents proved callous, and she - she couldn't find the reason to struggle one last time, so she succumbed to the impudent insects which sucked life out of her. Imagine: flies… at first a single one, then hundreds - frenzied black mists of buzzing flies, landing on her face, attracted by the stench of pus from an abscess left for some 8 years on its own. They sipped, and licked, and shat, and overtook her whole face. Ate it up. And though my squeamish grandma would finally begin to scare them away and clean up the house, the lethal bite was bitten, but this time with millions of invisible teeth and millions of legs, hair-thin, rubbed all over the wound. The flies were chased away, the house smelled of bleach. But there, in her giant bed (which grew huge as she withered), my great grandmother breathed softly, staring in glazy torpor. It took 2 days only for all the food accumulated in her lean body to be consumed by the infection. 2 days with no meals, no water, and no word. She must have drifted in between the worlds. The 2 life-eaters must have trembled slightly loose, but they endured. She was done.

       And then, as I hid behind a tree near the gravediggers, I saw what the earth did. She snarled. Twice they picked a spot to dig and twice they hit upon a rock. The third time they unearthed the hipbones of a huge dog. "There's some curse hither," the three men whispered to each other, "or the hag ain't ready to be buried yet." 

       And then it struck me. My great grandmother had kept the 2 strong teeth because their purpose was to cling to life and bite away the last enemies of her deserved peaceful death. She must have felt this ultimate duty, she must have known it once, prepared for it, and waited just for that peaceful, natural finale, but then she had forgotten. For that last will she had searched her old thoughts. But we, the young around her, lacking the patience and the shrewdness to seek it, we let her die fiendishly and unforgivably early. She departed life at a hundred years, as a princess. She should've bitten all her family, but she had forgotten this final duty.

       Next time, dear princess, remember - you wake up to live and die a Queen, and for that you fight tooth and nail.
       And now, sleep in peace. The earth will soon wake you with a kiss.


M  C  R

This work is copyrighted by the author, Mariyana Georgieva. All rights reserved.
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